The Elusive Chanteuse Show Diaries

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Oct 4, Tokyo

Mariah is now in Asia and my excitement is impossible to contain. Tokyo is the first stop of the Elusive Chanteuse Show and all I could think of is how lucky the Japanese are in this moment and in life, in general.

But as it turns out, the opening night audience wasn’t very lucky. She didn’t sound very, very good based on several clips that surfaced. I have to be honest about how I feel upon hearing the botched Vision of Love and We Belong Together because where would I be if I don’t display honesty always? Those 15-second clips, posted by a ‘fan’, were difficult to watch.

Because Mariah has always been the object of sharp critical analysis mostly aimed at the legitimacy of her talent and sometimes, boobs, certain avenues of expression such as Twitter were set ablaze with fiery and foolish commentaries. Even people who don’t care about divas or concerts, or music felt compelled to comment on the imperfection in her vocals. But actually, these people are sort of blameless because really, criticizing great artists has always been fun and it’s extra-fun when certain admirers of these artists look visibly upset. Ours is a world where it’s fun to make fun of people who falter. It is maybe not human beings’s fault that they find hilarity, unexplainable glee when a popular, multimillionaire woman is battered and beaten and called a has-been, hag or ho. It’s a heart-stopping sport for most especially where divas and their fans are concerned. It’s the kind of sport that unites people of all race and religion.

As for myself, I surprisingly wasn’t as disturbed as some obviously were. I loved Mariah when I was 12 or 13 years old. Something I loved when I was 12 is something I love for the rest of my life, or something. I didn’t like her because in the 90s, she was liked by every living human being and I wanted to join the club. When you’re young, you don’t care very much about what you like. In fact, I’d like to have my taste in films and music back. My taste in things has been smeared with impurities and my innocence about what is enjoyable and what is shit has long been shattered. Maybe it was my copies of Entertainment Weekly that poisoned my critical sensibilities with their movie rankings and reviews and things that told me what piece of entertainment deserves an A+ or F.

More articles surfaced about the less-than-stellar performance. More social media personalities thought to bring out their inner music critic and all-around genius, in order to point out that something went wrong with the singing. It hurts to be on social media at a time like this. You can’t not take some of it personally especially when people do it stupidly which is most of the time.

When you liked Mariah at an early age, the sort of supposed devastating faltering is not something you could have prepared for. If you are now a 13 year old boy who thinks Beyonce is going to be the shit 15 years from now, you better be prepared for when she can no longer register interest in the hearts of many. That day arrived for Michael Jackson, Whitney and Madonna and it will come for her, you best believe it.

If I had known at 13 that this is what I’m setting myself up for, that this is what it means to worship Mariah, I might have thought twice. But the Butterfly era was just such a glorious period so I think there was nothing I really could have done.

For the first time, I will see her live and I don’t think I will care that much if she screws up We Belong Together or Vision of Love although I hope she does not. I think what I bought the ticket for is for the chance to be contained in a same room with her, to get the once in a lifetime opportunity to breathe the same oxygen in the same room at the same time.

Oct 6, Yokohama

The singing for the second show was still far form perfect but still none of other people’s faves could come close to Mariah Carey’s ‘imperfect voice’ and so the throne for greatest living vocalist alive still wasn’t relinquished and all is right in the world. The sport just got boring for people who played it so classily during the first show. They are waiting to retweet the first 15-second clip of Mariah singing Always Be My Baby shittily that they could get their hands on, because the second show was not going to give it to them. The moment never came and mean social media bores are still crazy.

Finally someone had the sense to record respectable clips of when she sang so gloriously. It’s so great to know some lambs are still capable of good, sensible deeds such as this because really, sometimes, it’s just so hard to fathom why some ‘fans’ would post unflattering clips. Maybe these are the lambs who are also fans of basic starlets? It can only be surmised.

Sometimes I don’t agree with some of the lambs. Sometimes, fellow fans can be stupid and needlessly shady, like as if it makes it okay for them to say nasty things about her because they’re fans, calling Me I Am Mariah… The Elusive Chanteuse (fantastic album) a flop flop flop. It’s irritating but if that’s how they deal with their grief, I’m left with no choice but to temporarily ignore their existence.

Much as I loathe some of the crazy, annoying fans, when our girl gets it right, we get to hold each others’ hands, sing praises for whatever she has done right in our own little ways, and heave a collective sigh of relief.

From now until the 30th, when she makes her last show in Asia, I will be very pre-occupied with thoughts of her. I will rhapsodize and romanticize fervidly and incessantly. I will relive the splendour of she and I because it’s not as if I have a choice.

I Have a New Catcher in the Rye

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It is with so much delight that I’m announcing David Sedaris’s Barrel Fever as my new Catcher in the Rye. This is great news for me, for you, and for my very, very few friends. Congratulations, everyone, we no longer have to suffer the Holden Caulfield affectation, a spectacular achievement in execution failure though it may have been. I’ve also just finished David Shields and Shane Salerno’s ‘Salinger’ and read with great interest the Assassination section, specifically Mark David Chapman’s, and I’m symbolically cowering in shame for being guilty of the same crime as him: overlooking the humanity behind Holden’s profanity-laden but sobering view of humankind. My misreading, though, is not as total as MDC’s. My love for Holden stemmed (yes, stemmed) from his unfamiliarity with his own person (yes, person) the loveliness of which I feel strapped itself to my very own unfamiliarity with mine. We didn’t/don’t know the world, our place in it, and that was lovely in a movie, literary setting kind of way, but in your late 20s, not knowing your place in the world is just infuriating. Yes, I’ve already proclaimed freedom from the clutches of JD Salinger’s penetrating worldview, but if Mariah Carey can proclaim emancipation three times, why shouldn’t I?

When JD Salinger died, I rushed to Fully Booked and bought a hardcover Catcher in the Rye because I’m not the kind who idolize properly and sensibly. I might be sick with a disease characterized by uncontrollable urges to spend on things as a sad gesture of undying admiration. I might be suffering from a kind of psychological disorder that does not let me rest until I physically own something of the worship-figure. The easiest, most obvious explanation would be that I am a goddamned fool.

With Barrel Fever, there can never be a misreading, a misinterpretation, not even a silly attempt to embody a persona of an esteemed literary character. Maybe one: Adolph Heck, named after history’s most vicious imposer of viciousness, in the collection’s funniest story, Barrel Fever. A mother naming her son Adolph is guaranteed a slayer of me. I love Adolph and his mother. I love that Adolph’s sisters are named Faith, Hope, Joy and Charity. I love how he mocks his friend who once was his closest ally in mocking the mockable but who now has clung to nice persons.

Barrel Fever has become essential reading, a warder of the blues, a pair of shades in a dessert storm, a pair of truly dependable earbuds for Metro Manila life, a pair of balls in your ballsless days, etc. A Barrel Fever is a best friend.

Each reading of Barrel Fever for me is fresh. Sometimes I want to live in it and lap up the freshness.

If one day you find yourself in the pages of a Barrel Fever-like publication authored by myself, and you feel like pressing charges for character defamation because you Feel like I have cruelly borrowed and repackaged one of your least attractive characteristics and turned it into a bestseller, I’m sorry but I’m not sorry. If you decide to press charges, sue me for libel, you will find me in court carrying a tattered copy of Barrel Fever, with the words, ‘This is my statement!’ scribbled beside blurbs that proclaim it as ‘breathtakingly irreverent’. ‘This is my statement!’ — the very words written in Mark David Chapman’s copy of Catcher in the Rye, a piece of woeful evidence that was brought to court for the trial of the crime of gunning down one of the world’s most famous Beatle, 1/4 of Mariah Carey’s Billboard Hot 100 nemesis, John Lennon. I do not ever wish to reach the same level of insanity but there is a need for me to make friends with things whose reason for existing is to supply me with joy.

I may have already confessed an attachment for this Sedaris book, and even though the retelling of this attachment seems to go against what Adolph Heck feels about saying the same thing twice: ‘…nothing gets on my nerves more than someone repeating the same phrase twice. I think it’s something people have picked up from television, this emotional stutter. Rather than say something interesting once, they repeat a cliche twice and hope for the same effect,’ I feel it’s a necessary retelling. This is my statement!

Mariah’s Thing

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‘My thing is that I have to be myself and if that means that in that moment I don’t hear you, I don’t see you and you don’t exist to me at this moment, then that’s what it is.’

Mariah Carey, best person singer in the world, may have accidentally articulated how we (or just I) should feel about peoples and things that need rebuking off of our aura, when the quarrelings with Nicki Minaj led to things such as this quote which she eloquently and generously elucidated in an ET interview.

My interpretation of this is: Be yourself. If within yourself something doesn’t exist in your specific moment which can be totally whatever, don’t exhaust any of your senses by hearing, seeing or smelling something that is not existing in your moment. And then let it be.

A practical application of this is: instead of making a ‘Whateveeeeeeer!’ comment in any of your social networks “‘friends’s” posts, which you have to admit the internal struggle to not do can sometimes seem so insurmountable, you just nonchalantly block everything off because, hello, you have just been guided by Mariah’s non-existent beings moment management. Learn.

The Real Mes

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I bought Christina Aguilera’s Stripped Live in the UK DVD because, and only because, it was on sale at Astrovision Glorietta. If you think about it, self, the only time you ever buy Xtina is when she’s on sale which happens to be all the time. She’s cheap lately. I got Back to Basics, Bionic and Greatest Hits CDs at bargain basement prices. I was also given a Burlesque soundtrack CD as a gift because it was on sale and because the giver is poor. Joke.

The DVD starts with Stripped Intro from the album Stripped, and it’s just the sort of concert intro you’d expect from her from a song called ‘Stripped’. In it are the proclamations of breaking free, independencehood and barriers overcomings, blehlehleh, the ceremonious pop star outpouring of true feelings and the image-peddling (no make-up, no hype, no gloss, no pretense, just me… stripped…). K. It was all expectedly edgy and okay because it was a pre-taped video of the Aguilera that’s about to unfold before the probably unwitting London Wembley Arena crowd and myself, since I bought and secured for myself the company of Xtina, even though I know money is precious.

The intro nicely (or whateverly) segues into Dirrty, probably my favorite Xtina song because it has a great, ear-oppressing beat and lyrics that I like, and suddenly I’m back at a place where I don’t find her super annoying. I like Dirrty live performances because I know in my heart that each time Dirrty gets a stage performance, the result will never be short of sluttily attired ladies and gentlemen gyrations. It is for me the Xtina song that just will never stop giving.

But by the time I get to Voice Within, the song which has a Positive Message, I realize and tell myself as if I haven’t already a million times before, why I find it hard to not mock her whether in my mind or with people with the same hobby, and here are the reasons why:

1. She really oversings. It’s true what the 1,723 music critics and blog trolls have been saying. I have no freshness in my thoughts right now so let this be my contribution to that movement.

2. She flickers her fingers in her mic which I find distracting. If that was meant to give her performance some sort of character, congrats for the attainment of just such a goal.

3. Her platitudes are outrageous. They are excessive and only ever slightly less irritating than her outrageous growls. She propels causes such as female empowerment – specifically that of being allowed to behave sluttily and being regarded not as such (slut) but as equals of slutty guys. She expounds the merits of an equal opportunity-giving society while showing ass and singing semi-filthy lyrics to a crowd of thousands.

4. She’s smug. Stop me with the ‘show don’t tell’ horseshit. I’m not the DVD.

5. It’s not her exclusive territory, the spouting of The Real Me grand announcements, but she is maybe the least convincing pop star to ever profess to the public that the real me is this nose pierce having growler and not the record label’s manufactured pop star that you see in your screens or wherever. This reminds me of the one and only Glitter, specifically the sequence where the music video director tells Billie Frank’s music video people, ‘the glitter must not overcome the artist!’ (or something), which unfortunately for Mariah, the Glitter overcame her in 2001. For ‘Tina, the goth aspirations era overcame the artist.

I really, really would rather have affectionate feelings for her instead of saying all these, but she makes it so hard. She almost wins me over for things like Get Mine, Get Yours aka Skank Persons’ Theme. I would say that UK Live is maybe the first time I ever appreciated Fighter as there were some great dancing in it. It’s usually hard for me to do, not hate Fighter, because when you listen to a Xtina song called Fighter you know there will be haterade renouncements, which if that’s your thing, you’ll get plenty of in Lotus. But what really bugs me about Xtina is the I don’t give a shit posing. The problem with acts and pronouncements of non-shit givings is that the shit tends to leak one way or the other. In short, she gives some version of shit whether she’s conscious of it or not. It is my hope that she commit.

Someone once told me that I am secretly a fan of hers. Two people, actually: myself and someone keenly observing my DVD/CD-buying patterns (which is basically guided by ‘say yes to cheapness’). I reason that the Christina Aguilera-hoarding is so that I can hate her more but actually it feels more like hope. Christina Aguilera is maybe the person I encounter everyday that I don’t exactly want to tolerate because my heart is clearly a forgiving and tolerant heart, and so I tolerate anyway. None of which matters because loudly and clearly, words won’t bring Xtina down.

Augusten Burroughs kind of Christmas

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Freak is what Augusten Burroughs will make you feel like in his Chistmas book, You Better Not Cry. Freak for not having memories of childhood filled with Christmas craziness anticipation. Freak. Especially if you happen to be a gay adult who can’t remember a childhood marked by tinsel fascination or any of the other Christmas fascinators. My Christmas childhood was spent fearing the day when Christmas ceases to mean dicking around the extended family compound in Pasay for gifts and cash, but mostly cash, because, if you must know, I’m ‘economically-challenged as hell’, allegedly, and at an early age I must have been made aware of the greatness of the sensation brought about by having so much cash. Mostly I remember just really wanting to have as much Archies and Jugheads. You would understand if you remember that in the 90s, a Double Digest has 256 pages and Filbars sells 3 for only PhP 200.

It’s easy to see why Augusten Burroughs’s brother accuses him of retardation. In fact it would be retarded not to accuse him of that; it would have been charitable of his brother not to see little Augusten as anything but a retard. Augusten is a freak. So freakish it often seems like he’s making stuff up, but who cares? We always need a laugh and it’s generous to produce hilarity at one’s own expense for the greater good of those in need. This act of generosity surely must make baby Jesus proud.

It’s become an Augusten Burroughs tradition to make mountains out of molehills, to milk every single life event of its story-telling worth as something worth telling and killing millions of trees for. Getting into his Christmas reminiscences, I expected to read about  minor accidents that happened to happen during Christmastime. Maybe in his childhood his mom got drunk and his dad sort of got upset on one of his Christmases is what I thought I should set myself up for. A Wolf at the Table really scarred me, if you must know. It scarred me deeply. But no. Augusten shocked me with genuine sadness, Christmas-style.

I know I set you up for AB’s Christmas memories but I feel like talking about myself instead because I know me better than I could ever know Augusten. You must know, though, that You Better Not Cry involves Santa Sex.

Persons not of the naturally sunny, happy kind are or should be aware of the lameness of expressing unpleasant thoughts about Christmas because if they are not, there’s forever the risk of being perceived as eternally trying to be unique and contrarian which is just so the wrong way to be. When expressing dissatisfaction over Christmas and its hassles, family hang-up horseshits-reminding tendencies, it is best to be firm and clear about exactly why and just how is Christmas and it’s  Mariah Carey ambience is making you not delirious with joy. Persons of this type, maybe they can try to aim for Christmas Fever okayness and be out of sunshine persons’s sight. Grinchies, to save themselves from judgments, could immerse themselves in the true spirits of Christmas, preferrably those that are 40% proof. Just like our guy Augusten.

Greatest Hits and Misses

I want to have all of Mariah Carey’s Greatest Hits albums because I fear the total shut down of CD-selling is nigh. CDs are always going to be a part of me, they’re a part of me indefinitely, although I’ve been reassessing the importance of CDs in my life since it seems like such a huge waste of money to buy several greatest hits album of an artist whose individual albums I already own. Besides, how greedy should a record label be to release not one, not two, but five Greatest Hitses for a single artist to sell me, the unwise consumer? More importantly, how greedy am I for wanting to have everything of hers? Very greedy, it would appear, and I don’t mind. I never knew how much greedier I could get with an iPod since owning one only caused me to want even more albums. I therefore conclude that greed recognizes no format.

I only ever felt this need for Mariah whose Greatest Hits I got recently. It is a sloppily packaged CD and there are no thank yous to be found, not so much as a Hi, not even the type of hasty i-love-you-fans type of message that artists feel the need to say to fans for their contribution to their already insanely vast riches via album purchases and general acts of worship. As a practicer of such worship, I don’t feel sorry for contributing to certain singers’ riches as it is their due for being so aspirational and generally just fabulous in every way and for being so great at making people feel this blinded but ultimately satisfactory sense of satiation, and for being so skilled at promising lifelong fanaticism to them that creates within a fan/lonely-consumer-who-finds-meaning-in-material-things a true sense of fulfillment and joy that’s quite hard to explain although easy to be repetitive and be such a bore about. Greatest Hits is quite the obligatory Sony release and its fuss-free booklet is such a shameful act of obligation fulfillment since this is the least suspicious greatest hits of hers and couldn’t they have at least got a nice, crazy quote from her. In a perfect world this would have remixes, b-sides, live performances, rock versions and remakes which we will never tire of.

This collection claims to be ‘the ultimate Mariah Carey album. From the infectious Dreamlover through to Fantasy and Underneath the Stars all the songs on this album are certified Mariah classics‘ which may or may not be right depending on which particular consumer is consuming this product. This is simply something that can be said of any of her compilation albums including The Remixes and #1s. The sequence doesn’t do the randomness of the songs any favor. This compilation is for the very casual Mariah Carey consumer and the album is happy just to be sold.

The inclusion of Fantasy ODB Remix in The Remixes, although already included in two previous compilation albums, is not this album’s only sin. Here is finally a remix album with which the geniuses at Sony can finally shelter the remixes of her great remixes [I Still Believe (Damizza Remix), Breakdown (Mo Thugs), Honey (Bad Boy Remix), to name a few ] and what do the geniuses do? They not only exclude the remixed version of the songs, they include the previously released album versions, probably with the mindset that consumers who have yet to discover the very obscure Mariah Carey discography will learn that a song called Breakdown exists in its chaste form, that is, non-remixed, even though it is in a REMIX ALBUM, and it will be so much better to leave it untouched and stack said songs with actual remixes. Concept schmoncept, sales is king. Also a sin? Uglifying Charmbracelet’s Yours featuring a guest verse from BIG sound alike Bone Crusher. Another sin is editing I Know What You Want right to the part where Busta Rhymes says J Records. This album needs to confess.

And because the world needs another Mariah Carey love songs compilation (and maybe it seriously does), Sony, the milkingest record label of all time, releases The Ballads. Mariah is pure cash cow at this point. She’s been milked so thoroughly, you have to wonder if there’s any left for her babies. I’m sorry, that was sinister. But Sony is sinisterer. This is actually not a completely worthless product if you ask the laziest playlist maker in the world. This proves useful when you don’t feel like making your own Mariah ballads playlist, except the playlist is still quite limited and repetitive. If I were to make my own ballads playlist, I’d include unreleased and rare stuff such as Slipping Away and There for Me because I’m not from Sony music. Record Label Geniuses think differently. What is another Hero, Vision of Love, My All in yet another Mariah Carey greatest hits of sorts collection? Cash and time spared from a well thought-out playlist, is what.

The greatest greatest hits in my humble opinion is the modestly titled, #1s. In its liner notes, Mariah screams, No! This is not yet the Greatest Hits! Too early for that! although it may as well have been. This is a remarkable collection that reminds of the time when Mariah albums are both product and art, however meaningless being either entailed. And it’s just what we needed: a fairly sized number 1 hits collection that begins with a foreboding of things to come, image and soundwise. It begins with the sexy Sweetheart with Jermaine Dupri, followed by prestige duets When You Believe with Whitney Houston and Whenever You Call with Brian McKnight, which if songs were representations of our diva, is exactly how I like my Mariah: sexy and prestigious. It begins with the recent hits and winds down to the earliest, offering a trip down memory lane, tracing the progression/regression from the skimpy outfitting, helicopter ho posturing-Mariah to the Boyz II Men dueting, tights-loving Mariah of the Sony Mottola years. It was a lovely era of great, almost minimalistic album covers (#1s, Butterfly, Daydream) and rap guest verse-heavy R&B which is really what made me go crazy about her. Not long after this gorgeous era, she got a little crazy herself. But the hits that resulted from the insane era, also great. And with bated breath, I/we await the 00s Mariah’s greatest hits., Glitter things very much included.

Glitterific


I’m secretly fascinated by Christina Aguilera. She’s the kind of putrid I can’t take my eyes off of. I am both amazed and annoyed by her huge voice. But more annoyed than amazed. What is said of her penchant for big, showy belting, that she’s doing it to impress not express, I wholeheartedly agree. The fascination is due to the most obvious fact of all time: Christina Aguilera’s career trajectory is a drag queen impersonation of Mariah Carey’s. Guess which singer had the same criticism about her huge voice being all about impressing than expressing? That’s right, it’s not Britney.

But Christina fails so constantly and I almost feel sorry for her. Burlesque was her shot at making the expensive, explosive bomb of her career and she nixed it with a decent but still unremarkable performance. She had the benefit of precedents for pop star movie disasterpiece: Madonna’s Swept Away, Britney’s Crossroads, and the one and only Glitter, which should explain why she turned out okay in this. And through no fault of her own, she was backed by interesting supporting actors to anchor what should have been the Christina Aguilera addition to the Big Fat Flop cannon. It shatters me even that Express is so much better sounding than Loverboy could ever hope to be.

You can smell the desperation of some critics to declare this movie as the second coming of Glitter or Showgirls, two movies which should be offended for being associated with this limp dick. Burlesque just isn’t bad enough. It’s very trashy but also highly enjoyable. I find it difficult to find fault in a movie that has about 8 Cell Block Tangos in it. The Express number alone is worthy of the price of admission. Kirsten Bell in a bitcherrific role who gets to speak the movie’s outstanding contribution to film bitchery, ‘I will not be upstaged by a bitch with mutant lungs!’ is just a bonus. For lack of a Rob Marshall dance flick to satiate my basest desire for movie musicals, Burlesque comes as a gift from baby Jesus.

That Glitter was a huge flop is a distinction I’m actually fine with because its alleged awfulness at least had character. It flopped tremendously and so it belonged to history. It will not be forgotten. Christina and Burlesque is sadly not of the caliber of the Truly Awful which is a pity. She could have had her very own Glitter but she failed by doing just fine. She didn’t even get a Razzie nomination. She failed to fail spectacularly but at least she failed with Cher.

The Mariah parallel is really not so bad. Look no further than the bestsellingest album of 2005 for proof that great artists can transcend Glittery career setbacks. Christina Aquilera is a good singer. She’s one of the most beltingest hence one of the most well regarded singers, and if she is seriously devoted to following the footsteps of her most obvious predecessor, she will make her own The Emancipation of Mimi. And if she’s really, really serious, she will find her own Lee Daniels and make him cast her in a dowdy social worker role, and star in her own Precious. She may not get an Oscar nomination for it but it will get her back on track. But the way things are going, she will probably star in a comedy with Adam Sandler and do okay and that will be it. She has a way of watering down things to her disadvantage. She is half-assed through and through. But I won’t lose hope just yet. There’s a tiny part of me that roots for the lately underdogging Christina. She long ago launched an alter ego – Xtina. She’s getting there. But in terms of on-screen persona (alleged) awfulness, Ali is no Billie.